Italian Veggie Cottage Pie

A nice and easy vegetarian dinner here, and an interesting take on cottage pie from BBC Good Food.

Pretty simple to throw together – cook the diced aubergine first, then add the garlic, sun-dried tomatoes and some of their oil plus some oregano. Cook for a little bit then add the spinach and let it wilt down.

Add some flour and stir it in, then add some milk and grated cheese and bring to the boil. Let it bubble and reduce so that the sauce thickens, then transfer it all to a pie dish and cover with mashed potato and a bit more cheese. Warming, filling and tasty – plus a good wodge of vegetables!

Chicken Korma

We’ve not yet made anything from Diana Henry’s A Bird in the Hand which hasn’t been anything short of delicious. That said, we’ve tried lots of recipes for curries over the years and often find that there’s something missing… so we were curious to see what Diana’s recipe for chicken korma turned out like.

First thing you need to know here is that this recipe takes a long time. I think end to end I was probably in the kitchen for about 2 hours. This is because there are quite a few separate things you need to do, some of which take quite a lot of time. You have to salt some chopped onions and leave them to drain for 30 minutes; you also have to soak some saffron for a long time… none of it is especially hard, but there are just a lot of things keep track of.

You also have to use the food processor a few times – firstly you fry the onions and then you have to blitz them into a paste. Separately you have to soak some nuts in hot water and then blitz those into a separate paste. It’s certainly enough to keep you busy!

But as I said none of this is hard, and the end result is definitely worth it. Is it the most authentic tasting curry I’ve ever made? Hmmm… probably not, but it’s tough to say with a korma because it’s such a rich rather than spicy dish. It certainly tasted close to the real thing, and it certainly tasted delicious. Time consuming, but worth the effort.

Prawn Jalfrezi

A quick burst of heat for dinner on a cold winter’s day comes in the form of this prawn jalfrezi, the recipe for which is available online at the BBC Good Food website.

There were a few panics whilst making this – particularly when I realised we had no tinned tomatoes in the cupboard and I had to run to the corner shop on a particularly cold and windy night. The recipe also calls for you to cook the onions and spices, then add the chopped tomatoes and water and blitz with a hand blender. I tried to do this in the pan (heat turned off, obviously!) but the depth wasn’t sufficient to do without spattering so I had to decant everything to a pyrex jar, blitz it, and then put it back in the pan.

Also, the recipe called for one 400g tin of chopped tomatoes plus half a tin of water – I suspect the water wasn’t needed because our sauce was quite wet even after reducing down for a long time. The recipe said cook uncovered, but we took the lid off in an attempt to try and make things a bit thicker.

Despite that, the end result was really nice. Not a 100% authentic jalfrezi, but a nice and spicy sauce with a fresh taste.

Mushroom, pesto and cream lasagne

This great big plate of vegetarian delight comes from Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries.

It’s something of a cooking marathon his – I think that beginning to end took about 2 hours. That’s because you have to cook the mushrooms and onions, plus you have to make the pesto, and in our case we also had to make béchamel sauce. None of these tasks are particularly strenuous, but together they add to the time and coordination required.

Once you’ve got everything ready, alternating layers of pasta and mushroom filling are put into a dish, and then topped out with the pesto and finally the béchamel. It takes about 40 minutes in oven at the end, so this clearly isn’t a quick thing to throw together but the end result is a really nice take on lasagne and despite being vegetarian it completely satisfied us two omnivores.

A friend of ours managed to cut down the prep time by using ready made pesto and béchamel sauce which still produced something tasty – you can check out the evidence on his Instagram here.

Maguro no sutēki (tuna steak with butter soy)

We’re reminiscing about our summer holiday to Tokyo with this quick and easy recipe which we found in Kimiko Barber’s Cook Japanese at Home.

http://instagram.com/p/BMw6sRvBqOi/

There’s not much to this recipe. You fry the slices of garlic in oil first to flavour the oil, and then set them to one side once they’re crispy. Pan fry the tuna and then set it aside to keep warm. Finally, melt the butter and add some sake and soy sauce and reduce the whole thing down.

http://instagram.com/p/BMw7EKIh9uY/

Kimiko recommends sugar snap peas and baby corn on the side – we just used a packet of supermarket vegetables which included these and a few other things, and I did some sushi rice on the side. It’s a simple meal and tastes OK, but I can’t say it really seemed authentically Japanese to me… but that could be because my time in Japan was spent slurping ramen and scoffing sashimi!

Roast Chicken with Peppers and Chilli, plus fried potatoes

Some more Diana Henry goodness today. Seriously, her book – A Bird in the Hand – is a ridiculously great source of recipes. Go and buy it!

The ingredient list for this one is pretty short but creates a quick and tasty supper. She recommends serving with fried potato slices, which isn’t something I’ve ever made before and there is no specific guidance in the recipe. I gave it a go, and the end results tasted okay but were a bit wet and floppy rather than the crispiness I had expected. Still, tasted good so I’m not going to complain!

http://instagram.com/p/BMpVzb1Bwvz/

Parsee Chicken with Apricots

Something nice and spicy today from Diana Henry’s A Bird in the Hand.

We’ve raved about this book often enough, but this meal is a prime example of why we love it so much – it’s easy to put together and doesn’t call upon any especially exotic ingredients but the end result is a really tasty, comforting and spicy meal – but also noticeably unique from the myriad of other chicken recipes you can find in other books.

I’d eat this again and again – possibly the apricots appealing to my sweet tooth, but it was a real treat of a meal.

Potatoes and Peppers

Time for a veggie option, this time coming from Nigel Slater writing for the Guardian. The ingredient list is nice and simple – potatoes, peppers, garlic and chicken stock.

Cut the peppers into big strips first and fry them so they soften a little. Then fry the sliced potatoes so that they brown a little, throw in the garlic and the chicken stock with the peppers and let the whole thing simmer and reduce. You end up with beautifully soft potatoes and a tangy garlicky sauce – this is comfort food at its best.

Halloween Sausage Stew

With Halloween approaching, this hearty stew looked like a good contender. We found it on the Sainsbury’s Homemade By You website, but their version looks much better than ours because they go to the effort of decorating tortilla pieces to look like gravestones and using herbs to create a grass effect. Voila – a graveyard for dinner!

It’s a quick and easy meal to knock out. First brown the sausages, then cook the other ingredients and once it’s all simmering add the sausages back in and leave it to simmer. With all that simmering it takes quite a while to cook but it’s a very “hands off” affair with virtually no effort required and very little washing up is generated either.

Honey mustard chicken with salsa and beans

This recipe is weirdly both a lot of hassle, and almost none whatsoever. There is a long list of ingredients, it takes a long time to make, and it’s technically three different dishes. But at the same time, each individual dish is pretty easy to make. This recipe comes from the ever fabulous Diana Henry’s A Bird in the Hand.

The first thing is the chicken, which has to sit in its marinade – ideally for a few hours. The marinade is olive oil, vinegar, chilli, dijon mustard and garlic, so it’s pretty easy to throw together. It’s also recommended to put some slits in the chicken flesh so that the flavours can penetrate.

Once its had its time, it goes in the oven in a casserole dish for about 45 minutes. Actually, I found this to be a little too long and the skin of the bird burnt – but maybe I should have just been more on the ball with my basting.

The second thing to make is the black bean mix. This is also really easy – basically just a few ingredients stir fried together and sat in some orange juice and chicken stock whilst it reduces down. The orange juice is the star here – don’t be tempted to skip it!

Finally, just before you’re ready to serve, the last bit to make is the avocado salsa which is also really easy – basically just some chopped avocado and tomatoes with a couple of extra ingredients. Easy peasy.

We also served it up with some toasted tortilla for a bit of extra carb. Mark was late home for this meal, so it worked quite well with all the dishes on the go – the chicken could sit in its marinade, and then go to the oven about an hour before he was due back; the black beans simmer for part of that cooking time, and then when he comes through the door I quickly throw together the salsa and tortillas.